What are the Pros and Cons of Biodiesel, Bioethanol and Biomethane?

 


INSIGHT


  • BIODIESEL DOES HAVE A FUTURE IN THE TRANSPORTATION SECTOR, BUT ONLY AS AN ADD-ON IN THE TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM. IT IS UNLIKELY TO BECOME A MAJOR COMPONENT. IN THE AVIATION INDUSTRY, BIODIESEL MAY HAVE ADVANTAGES. 

  • BIOETHANOL PLAYS A SIGNIFICANT ROLE IN COUNTRIES SUCH AS BRAZIL AND INDONESIA. WE HAVE SEEN AN INCREASE IN BIOETHANOL PRODUCTION, IN THESE COUNTRIES. IN THE UNITED STATES, IT IS QUESTIONABLE WHETHER BIOETHANOL CAN PLAY A MAJOR ROLE IN THE TRANSPORTATION SECTOR.

  • BIOMETHANE PLAYS A SIGNIFICANT ROLE IN THE BIOGAS INDUSTRY. METHANE IS THE MOST IMPORTANT COMPONENT IN BIOGAS. THE REAL QUESTION WITH BIOMETHANE IS WHETHER WE CAN FURTHER INCREASE THE FEED-IN OF BIOMETHANE INTO THE GAS GRID.

  • THESE BIOFUELS ARE DEPENDENT ON THE PRICE OF OIL. AND THE PRICE OF OIL HAS BEEN FALLING RAPIDLY FOR ABOUT A YEAR. WHEN THE PRICE OF OIL IS HIGH, THERE IS GENERALLY MORE INCENTIVE TO INVEST IN NEW CAPACITY. NEW CAPACITY IS NEEDED TO MEET THE INCREASING DEMAND FOR THESE FUELS.



1. The advantages and disadvantages of biodiesel.


Of the three fuels discussed, biodiesel and bioethanol are the two fuels most dependent on the price of oil. In fact, the price of oil determines investment in all of these fuels, biodiesel, bioethanol, and biomethane. Biodiesel and bioethanol are considered expensive substitutes for gasoline. The cost of production and price at the gas station are a key factor. In any case, biodiesel will continue to be more expensive than gasoline for a long time. Because production costs are high, biodiesel continues to rely on subsidies. That means biodiesel will remain an environmentally conscious choice. It all comes down to your budget. 

To enable the development of a true biodiesel industry, an incentive structure must be put in place. How such measures are to achieve genuine market competition for biodiesel against gasoline is an open question. Ultimately, biodiesel must remain competitive even without financial support. Without these incentives, customers would not choose biodiesel at their local gas station. In most cases, biodiesel, like bioethanol, is an additive. Gasoline will remain the mainstay of the economy for a long time to come.

But these incentives will allow biofuel producers to be more competitive with conventional gasoline in the short to medium term. We are still a long way from developing both the economies of scale, the technology, and the price competitiveness to make biodiesel truly economical at the pump. 

Biodiesel also has the advantage of being in liquid form. Liquid fuels have the advantage that they can In addition, biodiesel does not lose much of its consistency over time. The energy losses in storing biodiesel are also much lower if we compare biodiesel to storing electricity. These are some significant advantages. 

Biodiesel can be produced from waste materials. This is a major advantage because it enables a significantly higher energy yield. Bioethanol, on the other hand, is mainly produced from organic substances and residual materials.

Biodiesel can be produced from one of the most promising fuels: Algae Biofuel. Much research has been done on algae biofuels over the past decade. To date, it has remained difficult to commercialize algae biofuels to the point where they are economically viable. But algae are the only organic source that is truly abundant. Algae can really make an impact on the biodiesel industry. The future prospects of algae biofuel are much more promising than the future prospects of bioethanol. Most bioethanol is produced from sugarcane, which is limited in overall production capacity.


2. The advantages and disadvantages of bioethanol.


Most bioethanol is produced from sugar cane, which is produced in tropical climates. In the USA, bioethanol is also produced in more northern latitudes. Its success is regional, not global. Sugarcane directly competes with agricultural use. In countries where there are food shortages, the question arises whether it is not more sensible to prioritize crop production instead of ethanol production. This issue may be more relevant when dealing a country that imports food.

Just like biodiesel, bioethanol is available in liquid form and is easy to transport. It can be stored easily. Unlike biodiesel, bioethanol comes exclusively from organic sources.

The main problem here is the regional availability of bioethanol. Transporting bioethanol to countries far from the tropics is fairly costly. This is especially true during times when global supply chains are disrupted. The coronavirus has a significant impact on global shipping volumes and affects the price of transporting goods around the world.

The energy required to transport bioethanol from the tropics is considerable. It is often not worth transporting bioethanol to northern latitudes. Bioethanol in its current state has a low energy return on investment (EROI) and a lower calorific value than gasoline. Depending on the plant source, the energy yield can be significantly lower than biodiesel.

Research is unlikely to find a way to increase the low energy yield of sugarcane. What is needed is a solution that significantly increases the energy yield of sugar cane. Innovation can play a much larger role in increasing energy yield for algae biofuels. This underscores the prospects of biodiesel compared to bioethanol. One solution is to increase research into canola cultivation. Canola can be considered an alternative crop to sugarcane for bioethanol production. However, canola also competes with agricultural use in northern climates.

It is best to consume bioethanol where it is produced. The distances are simply too great. So bioethanol is not really an option for northern climates. Perhaps new crops will be developed that will allow us to use sugarcane in northern latitudes, but we will never be able to increase sunlight in northern latitudes.


3. The advantages and disadvantages of biomethane.


Biomethane production is primarily associated with biogas production. Methane gas is flammable. In many European countries, there has been a dramatic decrease in the number of new biogas plants built. In a number of European countries, we are close to overcapacity when it comes to biogas plants. The financial aspects also play a role. 

We see that the growth of biogas plants also depends on the level of subsidies and the duration of subsidies. It may even depend more on the feed-in tariffs for biogas. For example, biomethane, the main component of biogas, gets priority and a better price when it is fed into the gas grid.

The fact that biomethane is in gaseous form is both an advantage and a disadvantage. On the one hand, it allows it to be used in industry, especially in the chemical industry. A disadvantage is that it must be transported through pipelines or, alternatively, by trucks. In places without a well-developed infrastructure, this is a costly undertaking. 


4. Conclusion


  • Biofuels, regardless of the fuel, have a lower EROI (energy-return-on-energy-invested). This has always been the number one problem hindering the progress of the biofuel industry.

  • Biofuel sources exist in a variety of locations. These sources are usually not concentrated in one place. This has hindered the commercialization of biofuels. Biofuel producers will continue to have a difficult time pooling these resources.

  • Compared to bioethanol and biomethane, biodiesel has the best prospects of finding its place in the sun in the energy industry. This is mainly because biodiesel can be obtained from a variety of sources. Sources include recycled plastics and other residual materials. This means that biodiesel is derived from a source that has a higher calorific value than other biogenic wastes. In addition, biodiesel can be used in the aviation industry, which is a major advantage in terms of customer diversification.


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